Dezeen Magazine

10 game-changing ideas and innovations from IKEA

Following the death of IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad this week, here's a look at some of the company's biggest design milestones, from the birth of flat-pack furniture to the launch of augmented-reality shopping.

The Ikea Lövbacken table by Gillis Lundgren

Kickstarting a flat-pack furniture revolution

According to legend, flat-pack furniture was invented by IKEA designer Gillis Lundgren when he sawed the legs off a product – the Lövet side table – to fit into his car.

After that the company moved its focus towards self-assembly products. By outsourcing the effort to the customer, the company was able to keep the costs of products down.

Changing the way people shop

Once the majority of IKEA furniture was being sold flat-packed, the design of the shops could be completely rethought.

This heralded the birth of warehouse-style stores in out-of-town locations. Shoppers would follow a designated route around a showroom, ensuring they saw the entire collection, then simply collect the items from the warehouse and take them home.

Ikea's 1996 ad campaign "Chuck out your chintz"

Encouraging Brits to "chuck out the chintz"

IKEA's 1996 advertising campaign, telling British shoppers to "chuck out their chintz", transformed attitudes to design.

According to Naresh Ramchandani, who wrote the slogan, the campaign ushered in a new era of contemporary design to the average British household. "It was proper piece of propaganda," he told Dezeen.

Ikea's 2014 PS1 collection

Creating desirable and affordable furniture for young city dwellers

The last decade has seen IKEA launch a series of capsule collections, including the ever-popular PS ranges.

Aimed at young city dwellers, the PS collections offer designs that are ideally suited for homes with limited space. They often feature designs by well-known names, from Ilse Crawford to Form Us With Love, and tap into a variety of current trends – ensuring they are snapped up fast.

Offering refugees an alternative to tents

In 2013, IKEA's charitable foundation announced plans to launch refugee shelters – offering an alternative to the unlockable tents that are more commonly used to house victims of displacement.

Despite some setbacks, including concerns about the product's vulnerability to fire, the project won the Design of the Year prize in 2017.


Launching a research lab exploring the future of lifestyles and wellbeing

IKEA's Space 10 innovation lab in Copenhagen is investigating ways of boosting the health and wellbeing of the company's consumers.

Projects revealed so far include research into what the next 20 years of food design might hold for the meatball and an exploration of the potential of algae as a sustainable super crop of the future.

Offering products made from recycled materials

Demonstrating its commitment to sustainability, IKEA launched a kitchen made from recycled plastic bottles and reclaimed wood in 2017.

It followed this up by creating a range of "no waste" products for its PS 2017 collection.

IKEA Jesper and lock technology

Moving on from the Allen key to offer furniture that snaps together

IKEA has recently developed a new type of joint, called a wedge dowel, that makes it much quicker and simpler to assemble wooden products. This does away with the need for screws, bolts, screwdrivers and allen keys.

Offering an augmented-reality shopping experience

IKEA added an augmented-reality feature to its catalogue in 2014, allowing customers to see what products would look like in their homes.

Since then, the brand has teamed up with Apple to create an AR-based shopping app, which is expected to play a key role in the launch of new product lines.

IKEA smart lights

Creating products for the smart homes of the future

With the Internet of Things becoming an ever-present part of daily life, IKEA has launched a range of smart lighting products, controlled using a remote or app.

The products form part of the IKEA Home Smart programme, which also includes wireless charging devices, and is set to grow in the future.